Bristol Urban, Enterprise & Innovation Network Launch

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Network Launch context

Black South West Network (BSWN) supported by partners is launching a Network to aid the development of effective networking, collaboration and innovation amongst BAME entrepreneurs and social entrepreneurs in response to its research.

As part of its 2018 Summer of Research Programme, BSWN has undertaken a 6-months research project which begins to map the BAME business community in Bristol in order to understand the barriers to growth and sustainability that it faces.

Among the main barriers identified most frequently was the lack of information and support when accessing finance and dealing with bureaucracy. The supporting infrastructure already in place to aid new and old entrepreneurs navigate the challenges of business development was deemed inefficient and, in some cases, discriminatory.

Barriers in the forms of negative stereotyping, and conscious and unconscious biases was overwhelmingly identified as the most significant barrier to BAME business development. As one of the participants to the research commented: “Social networks definitely are an issue in terms of success and it's much harder to access those opportunities that exist in White middle-class networks if you are Black.”

The research also highlighted strengths of the BAME sector, namely innovation and resilience. Among the largest and most promising business sectors within the BAME community are Food Services and Creative Industries and identified areas for future growth such as Information Technology and Construction.

On the research, Regional Mayor, Tim Bowles, said; “The West of England has a flourishing and vibrant economy with BAME businesses and entrepreneurs playing an important part in the economic growth of the region. However, I recognise the barriers faced by BAME communities and the points raised in this report will play a part in my thinking going forward. I will continue to support the efforts of the BSWN to understand the needs of communities in the region and look forward to further discussions.”

Regarding the Network Launch, Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees, added;

"Having the opportunities and spaces in which to come together to discuss business issues, develop collaborations, hear of new opportunities, and exchange ideas are the life-blood of a thriving business community. Developing networking opportunities for BME business leaders in Bristol is an essential step forward in our drive to create a vibrant and inclusive economy, and a city in which nobody is left behind.”

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Network Launch Event

The Network was launched at an event on Friday 9th November 2018 at 6.30pm, and was well attended by nearly 50 attendees from the BAME business, enterprise and social enterprise sector. The evening was chaired by Mohammed Saddiq, CEO of GENeco, and opened by Cllr Hibaq Jama (HJ) thanked everybody for attending the Network Launch and BSWN for conducting a piece of research that requires boldness and honesty. Following the research context setting by our Director Sado Jirde, Marti Burgess, Head of Corporate SME at Gregg Latchams and Business Board Member at the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), presented an overview on the current socio-economic context of the City and then presented the new localised Industrial Strategy in process of being drafted by the LEP. 

The event proceeded with a panel discussion including successful BAME leaders in the city: Kalpna Woolf, Founder and CEO of 91 Ways to Build a Global City, Bobbi O’Gilvie, Founder and Creative Director of Ready to Blog Designs, and Vincent Baidou, South Blessed. 

The main points arising from the discussion were as following:

·     The absolute importance of increasing the number of successful role models in the City who come from diverse backgrounds. The younger generation needs to feel represented in all business sectors and especially in the senior business and political leadership.

·     Young BAME need to have access to well-connected mentors who look like them and have a complete understanding of the systemic challenges that they face. These mentors’ guidance cannot simply include emotional support, but it also has to include active efforts towards creating connections for the young BAME entrepreneurs and opening doors and opportunities for them. 

·     BAME entrepreneurs have to work disproportionally harder to gain the same amount of success. They are often more skilled and prepared than the people around them.

·     Building personal confidence is a valuable asset that will help young BAME achieve results. So are marketing skills and the ability to confidently sell your product. 

·     How can BAME communities be true to themselves and at the same time be successful in a society that often encourages assimilation?

·     Intellectual property and cultural appropriation: BAME individuals are often not given appropriate credit for their achievements in all sectors, innovation, arts and so on.

·     The incredibly rapid changes to the business landscape brought by technology should be considered when scouting for new opportunities. Will the businesses that are flourishing now be successful in five years from now? How will that affect BAME entrepreneurs?

·     BAME entrepreneurs need to ensure they will be not only part of the customer base but also of the makers when new markets arise.

The event concluded with an intervention by Robin McDowell and Toby Howkins reminding that Bristol City Council and Outset are supporting BSWN and the BAME sector in tackling the challenges that arose from the research.

The Chair thanked the audience for attending and closed the discussion with an encouraging note: “You have to believe in yourself, you should not ask permission from somebody else to tell you that you are good or not. You figure it out by yourself and you actually make it happen.”

Next steps following the Launch Event include:

  • Hosting 4 quarterly networking events to include guest speakers

  • Exploring mentoring scheme for BAME entrepreneurs as part of the Network

  • Working with Bristol City Council to address issues of bureaucracy & red tape highlighted in the report

  • Exploring opportunities to deliver workshops & seminars on finance, marketing & social media and business development working with partners

  • Setting up an online platform to allow vitual networking and access to information

For further information about the network and how to get involved, please contact us on admin@bswn.org.uk.